Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Thrush vs. Trash

Among the endless list of sins committed against Tolkien's memory by the recent Hobbit movies, it's often the sheer gratuity of the various omissions, insertions and perversions, the petty vandalism wrought in the holy name of corporate cross-promotion which grates the most. We can bemoan Thranduil and Radagast's denigration, the moronic elf warrior princess or the freaking sandworms (sandworms! I mean what the-) but why did they have to go after the thrush, for Valinor's sake?

In the book, for those of you who really should read it, a marginally-magical thrush which understands common speech aids the protagonists in various ways, the most important of which is probably carrying the news of Smaug's weak point from Bilbo's lips at the top of the mountain to Bard's ears during the fight with the dragon. Not that there isn't everything else wrong with that scene like Bard's trusty, emblematic bow and arrows receiving a dose of Hollywood steroids and turning into a ballista. Still, in the name of giving the actors more screen time and turning the scene into yet another video game sequence, the movie's writers (if such they can be named) eliminated the connection with nature always so central to folklore, to Tolkien's faery tale inspirations which made The Hobbit such a success to begin with.

While in the middle ages most predatory animals got a very bad rap (wolves, bears, foxes and lynxes were constantly at odds with domesticated livestock) and poisonous animals like snakes and spiders were outright demonized, dirt-farming peasants living one day away from starvation and bereft of entertainment were by necessity aware of the flipside of nature, its variety, beauty and potential. Faery-tale heroes were constantly getting advice, guidance, transport and various other help from magical birds, bees, deer, ants, you name it. Hugin and Muninn were just the tip of the iceberg. Let's not even get into all the New World myths...

So when you watch such execrable corporate market-manipulation as was evident in the Hobbit maladaptations, try to spot all the tiny wounds inflicted not only on the writer's memory, but on your own consciousness of your ancestors' history.

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